The Science Behind Huts For Vets
By Stephen Otero
As a human who is consistently humbled by the power of our environment, I believe in the healing properties of life which exist all around us. Sometimes all we must do is stop, look, be present, and we can experience the education our planet has to offer us.
My name is Erik Villaseñor. I served in the US Army as an infantryman from 2006 to 2012, with two combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m 33 years old. I’m a husband, a father of two amazing children, a reader and writer, hiker and mountain biker. I’m also thrilled to announce that I am the new program director of Huts For Vets.
Given the philosophical nature of discussions during Huts For Vets programs, Exec. Dir. Paul Andersen was invited for an interview on this podcast. Huts For Vets is grateful to JJ Pinter and Team RWB for making this happen. We appreciate the sharing of ideas as a step toward greater understanding of the world, each other, and ourselves.
What we’ve discovered in our six years of leading men and women veterans and active duty service members into the wilderness is that most participants are philosophers and deep thinkers. We believe this is because military service has exposed many to deep reflections of life, death, and the meaning of existence. The level of conversation is refreshing in a modern age where most people barely look up from their screens to acknowledge those around them.
‘Huts For Vets’ Builds Tipi Base Camp and Targets National Veterans Groups
By Paul Andersen, Executive Director, Huts For Vets
Huts For Vets is now a landmark in the Roaring Fork Valley on a spectacular site with three large tipis overlooking the Elk Range. This prime piece of rural ranch property is a long term loan by a generous local ranching family that has been a HFV supporter from the day we offered our first programs to veterans in 2013.
By Brian Porter, Huts For Vets, Director of Operations | Song performed by Mack Bailey
I have used writing as a form of therapy for years now. Mostly it revolves around my experiences with war and I hope to learn from what I do write to better myself. Two years ago, I finally visited a friend I had served with in the Marine Corps. We had remained in touch for 20 + years but had not seen one another in that time. After our visit, I thought about how long it had been since we had seen each other, how great it was to spend time with someone that would, and has, put their life in danger so that you could live your life. I started thinking about just before we went to battle, the promises we made to one another, “If I don’t make it, please live your life for me.” I had made that promise, now, I sometimes find it hard to keep.
Lightning flashed, thunder crashed, and rain drummed on the roof of Margy’s Hut in August 2016 as Aspen Institute senior moderator Pete Thigpen led a dozen US men and women combat veterans through a discussion of “The Melian Dialogue,” by Thucydides.
Thigpen, a Marine Corps veteran from the 1960s, opened with a tutorial on how to lead a seminar. The seminar approach is used by Huts For Vets to introduce veterans to philosophical discussions conducted amid towering mountain peaks and plunging timbered valleys in the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness.
Dick Durrance was raised in Aspen, worked for decades as a professional photographer, and is reopening his photo files on images he shot as a military photographer during the War in Vietnam. The three images here represent the close intensity with which Durrance chronicled the war and the soldier who fought in it. His book, “Where War Lives,” is a testament to his art and reveals the real deal as he saw it on many fronts during the war. Durrance’s slide show from this period is riveting, and he is open to taking it on the road to veterans groups, schools, communities and to anyone who can appreciate the impact his images contain. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect through Huts For Vets.
How a Veteran Survives Survival
By Paul Andersen, Founder and Exec. Dir. Huts For Vets
(from his Aspen Times newspaper column Monday August 29, 2016)
Most US soldiers today don’t die as casualties during war; they die afterwards, as veterans, from despair, helplessness and alienation.
Navigating their way back into the civilian world is a perilous journey. The mythical Odysseus described this well in his ten-year journey home from the killing fields of Troy.
Sebastian Junger writes: “The American military now has the highest PTSD rate in its history… American combat deaths have dropped steadily while trauma and disability claims have continued to rise… Today’s vets claim three times the number of disabilities that Vietnam vets did.”
Junger knows what he’s talking about given his own recovery from covering a war zone in Afghanistan, where he came under fire. “The inevitable counter attack started with an hour-long rocket barrage. All we could do was curl up in our trenches and hope. I felt deranged for days afterwards, as if I’d lived through the end of the world.”